Liberia Peace under Review

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Liberia’s Peace-building process Wednesday came under the spotlight as stakeholders commenced a three-day discussion aimed at identifying ways in which the country’s fragile peace and security can be sustained.
Close to 50 delegates representing government actors, civil society organizations, development partners, yesterday attended the peace roadmap conference, which was jointly organized by the National Peace-building Office (NPPO) and the African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD).
The lack of information dissemination to the vast majority of the population and the lack of active media participation were identified as some disturbing obstacles hampering the national reconciliation and peace-building roadmap.
The peace-building conference is intended to recognize progress made so far in the national peace-building implementation, including identifying existing challenges and taking vital approaches to address priorities in developing a roadmap for durable peace and security that would ensure development in post-war Liberia.
“Among the issues that we need to address are the economic and social vulnerabilities of the vast majority of the population,” acknowledged Wilfred Johnson of the National Peace-building Office.
At least 60 percent of the 207 recommendations put forth by the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) have been implemented, Mr. Johnson also announced.
However, the issue of implementing the justice component of the TRC recommendations remains a sticky debate among the population, a factor which appears to be posing serious mistrust between the public and public officials who proclaim government’s commitment to adhering to the rule of law.
There have been divided opinions on whether or not people who committed heinous crimes during the country’s civil upheaval should be prosecuted and reparations made to their victims.
Huge public distrust of government officials have also brought into question government’s commitment to ensuring justice and the rule of law, since in fact some of those accused of perpetrating grave crimes are presently found in all three branches of government and sit in the highest positions of decision making.
There is also considerable public perception that any action taken by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with respect to punishing people who committed atrocities during the war, could entangle and trap her in her action.
“There is this issue of restorative or retributive justice. What I want to say to you here is that most of what we’ve implemented in the TRC has to do with restorative justice,” Mr. Johnson informed journalists on the sidelines following the conclusion of Wednesday’s peace-building opening discussions.
Also, open corruption in public service, land disputes in eight of the15 counties were among other issues high on the meeting’s agenda. These and other key issues, according to experts, are among factors seriously threatening the nation’s fragile peace and security.
“The issue about land disputes in this country can be handled if only we listen to traditional land owners. This is how those kinds of issues were resolved in the past,” Reverend Emmanuel Z. Bowier, former Information Minister, recommended during the forum.
Wednesday’s opening session set the stage for the three day roundtable and interactive peace-building roadmap discussions. Several stakeholders and conflict resolution specialists are expected to provide expert opinions on ways that will lead the nation into lasting peace and security, even in the wake of the UNMIL drawdown, another major concern that was flagged at the seminar.

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